What a wonderful experience.
I have just spent 2 weeks in Myanmar ( Burma) where my son and his wife are currently working. Myanmar is now gradually catching up with the West so to see it before this happens was so interesting. Its recent history is very sad, leaving much of the country in poverty, but ‘cautiously optimistic’ is the current political flavour. One phrase which to me sums up my impression of the workings of Myanmar is “we were 19 hours into a 10 hour train journey”, but that is only one aspect of Myanmar. The most obvious beauty of Myanmar is its people. They are so gracious, friendly, helpful and happy, a stark reminder that wealth does not guarantee happiness.
Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist country with a philosophy of doing good to attain merit in the next life. I felt very comfortable saying to our Buddhist tour guide in Bagan, that I trusted him as a Buddhist to take us to an honest outlet for some local goods which we could purchase. And then it hit me – how many people use words to the effect “ I trust you because you are a Christian”? Can all Christians be trusted? Should all Christians be trusted? Of course we should. But let’s not limit Christian values to trust.
We should all display the fruits of the Spirit – ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control ( Galatians 5: 22). I was put to shame when we visited a Catholic Boarding House near Yangon and met Sister Angela who was such a joy to encounter. She is in charge of the boarding house where disadvantaged young ladies and children are cared for in such a positive and loving environment, (despite no reticulated water and other essentials – or what I would call essentials). I ran a workshop for the young ladies on basic theology and how to teach young children Bible stories, then had a wonderful session with the children teaching them some Christian songs and telling them the story of Gideon – all this with the help of a very competent interpreter.
Apart from delighting in this very new experience, I have had to re-assess my Christian values and it is one thing to be able to recite the fruits of the Spirit and definitely another to live them out. But how can we witness to people if we don’t show them Christian values? This is not an optional extra for certain ‘good Christians’ but something which we all must show as we grow in the knowledge and love of God.
John 13:34 sums it up so clearly “ A new commandment I give to you that you love one another as I have loved you. By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples – if you love one another”. There are times when I am too tired, too busy, too........ and don’t really feel like being loving and kind and patient, but Jesus didn’t make excuses when he taught this, and of course, neither should we.
Maybe you are like me and need a reminder that God can change the negative aspects of our personality so as to reflect him. God offers us forgiveness through the cross, but with genuine forgiveness must come the desire for change, change which can only come with God’s help.
I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of visiting Myanmar and especially family, but all these memories will hopefully remind me of God’s love for me and the need to share that love each and every day.